A web hosting service is an hosting service that allows subscribers to store data accessible through the WWW. Web hosts provide storage space and Internet connectivity, often in a full-blown data center.
Along with the basic service of providing storage space and an Internet connection, web hosting companies may also provide any of the following:
- Several methods of uploading files. The traditional method is using FTP, but some may also offer the more friendly alternative of uploading files directly from a browser, by e-mail or using some other protocols.
- The ability to use server-side scripting languages like PHP or ASP.NET. This is becoming something common nowadays, as the bandwidth availability has increased dramatically. This has reflected in an increased number of websites with dynamic content.
- Webmaster tools to simplify the tasks of website owners and administrators. Web-based interface for managing the website's details (like cPanel) may be offered, as well as friendly wizards and configuration tools.
- Support for secure protocols, like SSL and HTTPS.
- Technical support through a variety of communication protocols and methods (by e-mail, through a forum, or even by IM or phone).
Free and paid
Some companies provide free web hosting services to subscribers. Although this seems like a bargain, there are often some serious limits imposed so that the user becomes motivated to purchase a fee-based subscription with that company. Free web hosting services do get some profit anyhow, since they are often ad-supported. These limits may include prohibitive disk quotas, severe bandwidth limits or disallowing certain types of files to be uploaded. Professional-level web hosting is normally done for paid subscribers though, and the feature range is often wider. Paid subscribers often get to customize their hosting environment, especially in dedicated hosting (where a single subscriber rents an entire web server only for himself).